SNL #38.21 RECAP: Host Ben Affleck, musical guest Kanye West (season finale and goodbyes for Fred Armisen, Bill Hader)

As the thirty-eighth season of Saturday Night Live comes to a close, it’s time to say goodbye to longtime cast members Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, quite possibly a fond farewell to one or two others, and to reflect upon the season just passed.

What sticks with me, what sticks with you, perhaps, isn’t so much a single sketch or performance so much as it is the performers themselves. Which makes saying goodbye to any cast member that much more difficult, for you realize SNL won’t just be the same without them. It’ll still be funny. It’ll just be a different kind of funny.

All of that, and you almost lose sight of the fact that Kanye West is back for two more memorable performances, and oh, yeah, right — Ben Affleck is hosting SNL for his fifth time. Five-Timers Club! And yet.

If you can think of something less sexy and less funny to open cold with than a trumped-up IRS scandal featuring Kenan Thompson’s Rev. Al Sharpton MSNBC parody, well, then you’re hired. Cable news is such an easy target, whether it’s MSNBC, FOX or CNN, because it’s guaranteed to garner Sunday and Monday coverage from the same cable news networks. No matter if the sketch is funny. It’s paying attention to media, and the media loves when you pay attention to them. Jason Sudeikis is in-studio with Kenan, while Bill Hader is dressed up in a Tea Party get-up. Giddy up and get us giddy already.

Our host once again is Ben Affleck. Does he get the all-star Five-Timers Club treatment? No. Not at all. SNL pulled out all of those stops just a few weeks earlier for Justin Timberlake. Affleck gets Bobby Moynihan in a “5” T-shirt. Sorry, audience. And Affleck offers a very public apology to his wife, Jennifer Garner, for his Oscar-winning acceptance speech that previously publicly described their marriage as difficult. This monologue is a lot of work. I mean, it’s a gift! It’s a gift!

Is it too late for an Iranian response to Argo? Argo Why The Heck Not. Fred Armisen is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad playing Ben Affleck in a propaganda film, “Bengo F*** Yourself.” No matter how many times he mutters “park the car in Harvard Yard,” his Affleck Boston accent is remarkably like Bloomberg, who I guess is close enough, when you really think about it? It’s worth it just for the “Gigli” line, though. Really. Think about it.

Fake ad time. Are you worried about how to have fun at all of these big new gay weddings? There’s a Xanax for that.

Now it’s New York, circa 1933, and Bill Hader is looking for work, any work, well not any work, but something for “prima donna” (Kate McKinnon) and her brick. This is 40?

How about that Carrie Brownstein ad for American Express, eh? That’s a real thing.

And we’re back.

Back at “gay camp” to turn them kids straight. Because “hetero is better, yo.” Even if camp counselor Affleck warns his campers that they’re lacking proper supervision. Power of example, this guy.

Ladies and gentlemen, here he is, the man you came to see: Kanye West.

That was “Black Skinhead.”

Weekend Update

Amy Poehler returned to the Update desk to join Seth Meyers (newly minted as future Late Night host) for a “Really!?!” segment about the IRS scandal. The audience was super jazzed to see Poehler again. Weren’t you? Really? Really?!

We said hello again to Amy Poehler. And we said goodbye to Stefon. Goodbye, Stefon.

Wait just a second. You follow up a heartfelt character goodbye with ads, and then a funeral sketch?

This is “Greg’s” funeral. Greg’s death was not mysterious. So let’s hear about Greg, from co-workers (Tim Robinson) and neighbor (Cecily Strong) and so on (Kate McKinnon) and so forth (Taran Killam) and so on (Nasim Pedrad). Their reactions aren’t the ones “Greg” was looking for.

Our former porn stars (Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong) are back selling merchandise. This time, they’re selling leather handbags. Is it Hermes, or is it something else? With Affleck as “Girth Brooks.” How’s it hanging, Girth?

Once again, Kanye West. This was “New Slaves.”

We’re back in the backyard, at an engagement party in a family of cops. McKinnon is the mom, Hader is the father, Pedrad is the daughter. Affleck is the uncle. It’s tough for these cops to show emotion. They sure can show mustaches, though. And they can make out the first bars of “Bad Boys” (the theme to TV’s “Cops”), and for that, we have licensing issues. So, thanks for that.

For his farewell, Fred Armisen chose something subtle, and yet also a little more rock ‘n’ roll. With his friends jamming out onstage with him as Ian Rubbish.

When the chips are down, turn it around. It’s going to be a lovely day.

Have a great summer, everyone! We’ll meet back here in September with new faces in the same old places!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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